Last month, Tea Party Senators led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bill to dismantle existing environmental protections for threatened and endangered species. Senate Bill 1731 aims to revise the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was signed into law by Nixon in 1973, thereby providing companies with a free pass to conduct business without consideration for environmental consequences. The bill will also require any species listed as threatened or endangered to be removed from the lists after a 5-year period, regardless of their status.
In their proposal, conservative senators claim that the ESA has not achieved its goal of recovering threatened and endangered species, and instead “imposes” costs on the private sector. And, of course, proponents of dismantling the ESA used the worn-out, inaccurate argument that environmental protections hamper economic growth and jobs.
According to the bill, the “regulatory listing process under the ESA has become a tool for environmentalists to undermine, slow down, or halt construction of infrastructure projects, hampering economic growth and employment.” In response to the proposed bill, the Center for Biological Diversity issued the following in a press release:
In its 40-year history, the Endangered Species Act has been more than 99 percent successful at preventing extinction for wildlife under its protection and has put hundreds of plants and animals on the path to recovery, including bald eagles, grizzly bears, whales and sea turtles.
Despite this successful track record, the bill’s most extreme provision would require that every five years all protected species be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species, eliminating all legal protections. No matter how close to extinction they might be, every listed species would then have to wait until Congress passed a joint resolution renewing their protections under the Act for another five years. Five years later, this process would start over again, eliminating all protections until Congress passed another joint resolution.
“The strength of the Endangered Species Act — in fact all of our nation’s environmental laws — comes from the requirement that science, not politics, guide the protection of our wildlife, air and water,” said Brett Hartl, Endangered Species Policy Director for the Center of Biological Diversity. “This bill would allow extreme ideologues in Congress to veto environmental protections for any protected species they wanted, just so they could appease their special-interest benefactors.”
Members of Congress have been desperately trying to aid their corporate and industry campaign donors. Just last month, the House passed two industry-friendly pieces of legislation. HR 2728 will block federal regulation of fracking in states that have their own regulations, or lack thereof, and the Federal Lands Job and Energy Security Act will cut federal funding for renewable energy projects by 50 percent, and impose a $5,000 fee on anyone who wishes to oppose a drilling project, among other things.
Congress members’ newest gift to polluters and big business interests would eliminate protections for threatened and endangered animals and plants as well as for their habitat, which is critical to their survival. “This bill would devastate species protections and open the door to log, mine and pave some of the last places on Earth where these animals survive,” Hartl said. “It’s a boon for profiteers like the Koch Brothers but will rob every American who values wildlife and wild places.”